The basic foundations of any story are the ‘Why, What and Who’. ‘Why you want to write’, ‘What you want to write’ and ‘Who you want to write about’. These do not have to be solid concepts or fully structured thoughts for this part, but they will be the direction that guides you forth during Nanowrimo and Preptober.
There are additional parts of the story that are also basic building blocks, such as the Where, When and How, but the ‘Why, What and Who’ are the basic, basic, part of brainstorming your story. This is the stage where the Percy Jackson series was still at the beginning of the concept of, “How about a disabled modern-day demigod going on adventures so my son has someone to look up to?”
By the end of this segment, you do not need to have consolidated an outline or plot, just your idea in order to get started.
Why are you writing? It can be in general or for Nanowrimo, but why do you want to write? Some reasons may be:
- To tell a story that is inside you
- To reach a goal
- To reach a daily word count
- To do your own spin on a story or trope
- To have more characters that are like you
- To join a community
- To try a new hobby
There is no absolute or wrong answer. You could want to write because there is money to be made in Kindle romance books, so good for you for finding a side hustle. Now what type of romance book are you going to write?
This is not the stage where you have a full character sheet and name, so put down that baby name book, you are getting ahead of yourself. This is more about figuring out the main characteristics of the cast, such as:
- Size of Cast
- Age of Characters
- General Personality Traits
This can also include gender, sexuality, race, and disability status of the characters if representation is something you are focused on.
The makeup of your cast can affect the plot so figuring who you want to write is typically where I like to start. If you want to write about high school students who are from different cliques, then a sex-filled thriller is most likely not fitting if the recent tv series, Riverdale, is anything to go by.
Protip: Do not try to make anything “sexy” if it involves teens. There can be intimate scenes and sexual encounters between characters if treated in the right manner. Just do not make it sexy, since then it becomes a bit creepy.
What story, or type of story, do you want to tell? Once again: this is not “have an outline by the end of this”, it is “have a single sentence idea”. For example, “a murder mystery takes place on a train, also there is magic involved” which is the premise of Adventure Zone’s Murder on the Rockport Limited Arc.
I have two ways I like to brainstorm ideas when I am struggling to come up with either writing ideas or my own concepts for Preptober and Nanowrimo.
Method 1: Out of a Hat
This is somewhat a childish method, but I find it fun. I set up 3 cups/hats/containers filled with scraps of paper that have genres, tropes & concepts, and conflicts. I then select 2 scraps from genres, 3 from tropes, and 2 from conflicts, and come up with ideas from that. Weirdly enough, this plan often works well. Here are some ideas for each section:
- Urban Fantasy
- High Fantasy
- Slice of Life
- School Life
- Alternate history
Tropes & Concepts
- Myths & Legends
- Mad/Odd Scientists
- Opposites Attract
- Forced To Work Together
- Werewolves, Vampires and Witches, oh my!
- Lives of the Rich
- Arranged/Fake Marriage
- Chosen One
- Search For The Grail
- Love Triangle/Square
- Secret Plot
- Family secrets
- Lost World
- Science Gone Wrong
Method 2: Power of Spite
Think of a movie, book or anything that you read and then said to yourself, “What the hell was that?” and then do it better. This happened with a little known book, Lord of the Flies, so why not your story?
Share your ideas over on Twitter with the #preptober2020 and #WiseWordsPreptober